Memorialised as the visionary, trendsetter, and pioneer who steered Jamaica into the era of ‘destination management’, Montego Bay businessman Ralph Smith was sent home to rest after two days of celebration of his life.
The two-day farewell, which started on Wednesday, culminated yesterday in a service officiated by four top clergymen as the icon was immortalised by two former prime ministers, two government ministers, one custode, and a senior councillor, members of the Masonic Lodge and a host of family members.
One church was also not enough for the late transportation icon, whose body was viewed at the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, while his enthralling life was showcased at a thanksgiving service at the historic St James Parish Church.
“His is going to be a tough act to follow,” former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson eulogised the accomplished business leader and philanthropist, adding that having trained and exposed his children to quality service he offered, he was certain they would continue the rich legacy.
Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who was one of Smith’s bird-shooting partners, lauded the late 85-year-old founder of Tropical Tours for remaining in Jamaica and helping to build the nation in the 1970s when others left in droves for supposed better climes.
“He had a deep commitment to country. He was confident, strong, and self-assured,” said Golding.
Smith, who passed away on January 29, was renowned in local and international tourism circles for his exemplary contribution to the sector, and although Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett could not attend the service, he spoke via video link of a man who was not content in just watching tourists coming to Jamaica.
“Instead, he went and negotiated with tour operators to expand the market,” Bartlett said.
A GENEROUS LEADER
Smith was a family man who gave generously, and the ones who knew him best tagged him a servant leader.
His son, Fred Smith, now managing director of Tropical Tours, described him as a great man who wouldn’t stop until those around him could experience their own greatness.
He was recognised by the Government with an Order of Distinction (Commander Class) in 2005, and he was inducted into the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Business Leaders Wall of Fame in 2015.
St James Custos Conrad Pitkin described Smith as an influencer who has left an imprint on the hearts of his children and many others.
St James North Western Member of Parliament and Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang; the Masonic Lodge leaders Don Daley and Albert Morgan; the Venerable Justin A. Nembhard; Archdeacon of Montego Bay, Most Rt Reverend Burchell McPherson; Venerable Hollis Lynch; and the Reverend Canon Calvin McIntyre all spoke of Smith’s earthly pilgrimage and the impact he made on Jamaica.
He was a revered leader of the Lodge, having attained the highest ranks in the last 30 years, and he was one of the biggest supporters of the Church, leading a number of construction efforts.
Ralph Smith will be remembered as an icon in the travel and tourism industry for years to come.
He is survived by his widow Joy, seven children, and several grandchildren.